Located in the northern tip of Thailand, the Wang Put Tan Tea Plantation has been growing Chinese tea plants for the past three decades. Overlooking the plantation and the terraced hills, they have a boutique hotel and tea tasting shop. If you’re a fan of beautiful landscapes, cozy hotels and/or tea, this is the place for you.
The story of the Chinese presence in northern Thailand is rather interesting. In 1949, the communist Chinese army chased out the Kuomintang army, also known as the KMT or Nationalist Party of China. Most of the KMT ended up in Taiwan, but the 93rd Division of the army fled into Burma (now Myanmar). The Burmese in turn chased them out, and the remnants of the army found their way into the hills of northern Thailand. Establishing the village of Mae Salong and many more, they began to rebuild their lives.
In the next few years, Communist China invaded Vietnam and Laos, and then set their sights on Thailand. Thailand’s King Rama IX enlisted the help of the KMT to repel the Chinese, which they successful accomplished. As gratitude, the King made the remaining soldiers citizens of Thailand. For two generations, they have prospered in trades of their homeland – namely tea plantations.
The Wang Put Tan tea plantation is located in the heart of the village of Mae Salong. Importing four strains of oolong tea plants from Taiwan, it has grown into a thriving business. The visitor center of the plantation is still under construction, but already completed are the two largest tea kettle sculptures in the world.
Also guarding the entrance of the plantation are two giant Chinese lion statues. The main house of the plantation has a sloped roof imported from China, as they are not manufactured in Thailand. Much of Mae Salong features Chinese architecture, and the plantation is no exception.
The Wang Put Tan Boutique Hotel opened in 2014. The location couldn’t be better. Each of the twelve rooms has a balcony with gorgeous views of the tea plantation, the Buddhist temple up on the hill and the valley north of Mae Salong.
The rooms are modern and unique. There’s no purchased furniture in the rooms, other than the mattress and fridge. Instead, everything has been constructed with concrete, and then decorated with both Chinese and Lanna artwork. The Lanna tribe are the original locals in the region, and they can still be seen manufacturing and hawking their wares in the villages.
The restaurant has a full restaurant, including a buffet breakfast during the peak season (Dec-Mar). Next door to the hotel is the tea shop, where you can sample all eight tea flavors produced by the Wang Put Tan plantation.
It was Yuphin Cheewinkulthong’s father who started the plantation. She and her siblings are all in the family business, running the plantation, hotel and tea shop. While in Mae Salong, in addition to a full tea tasting, Yuphin showed me around the village. I received a tour of the KMT museum and their history in northern Thailand. We visited the Tomb of General Tuan Shi-wen, the late leader of the KMT, where a soldier still stands over the grave and welcomes visitors to the site.
After five months in Thailand, Mae Salong became one of my favorite locations. The trip into the mountains was gorgeous. I rode to the plantation on a motorcycle with a friend. However, there is local transportation from Chiang Mai or Chiang Rai.
If you’re interested, you can even volunteer at the plantation in exchange for room and board. You’ll get to learn all about the harvesting of Chinese tea, as well as the Chinese culture of northern Thailand. I plan to do that myself the next time I’m in Thailand. Will I see you there?